Category Archives: healthcare reform

Views on Healthcare Reform

A new survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute in Washington breaks down views of the healthcare reform law based on the type of insurance the individuals have.

Interestingly, people with consumer-driven health plans and high-deductible health plans are more likely to think the new law will affect them, compared to those with traditional healthcare coverage.

Nearly one-half (46 percent) of those with CDHPs and about four in 10 (42 percent) of those with HDHPs expect a mostly negative impact from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, compared to 37 percent of traditional-plan enrollees.

Paul Fronstin, a senior research associate at EBRI, which is nonpartisan, says it could be party affiliations driving the difference. Those with CDHPs, he says, are more likely to be Republicans while those with traditional plans are Democrats.

But , regardless of plan type, many individuals expect their costs to increase under the PPACA: 59 percent of those with CDHPs, 50 percent of those on traditional plans and 41 percent of those with HDHPs.

A significant number also expect benefits to be cut: 41 percent of those with a CDHP, 39 percent of those with a HDHP and 30 percent of those with traditional plans. And about one-third of all the respondents expect a mostly negative impact on quality of care.

Some of the negative feelings may have to do with the fact that Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Savings Accounts no longer allow individuals to purchase over-the-counter drugs with those funds, Fronstin says. The law also increases the tax for using HSA monies for non-qualified purchases.

For HR, the takeaway is to focus on educating workers about the impact of health reform on their benefits, Fronstin says.

As the EBRI survey notes, fewer than 5 percent of the individuals surveyed — regardless of type of health insurance — say they are extremely knowledgeable about the law.

The study was based on an August 2010 online survey of 4,508 privately insured adults between the ages of 21 and 64.

More Help Given by Early Retiree Reinsurance Program

Wanted to make sure as many people saw this as possible. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services just announced yesterday that it’s accepted an additional (almost) 1,000 employers and unions into its Early Retiree Reinsurance Program. The agency’s announcement says the total has reached almost 3,000 organizations now.

The program, created by the Affordable Care Act as a bridge to the new health-insurance exchanges coming in 2014, provdes $5 billion in financial help to employers and unions to help them maintain coverage for early retirees, ages 55 and older, who aren’t yet eligible for Medicare.

Organizations accepted into the program receive reimbursement for medical claims of their early retirees and their spouses, surviving spouses and dependents. The program ends when the exchanges begin.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in making the announcement that she’s “incredibly pleased to see so many employers embrace this important new program to maintain coverage for people who often have a difficult time finding affordable coverage.”

 Strikes me as a win-win for retirees and employers alike. In case you’re interested, applications are still being accepted at the program’s website.

Washington ‘Fencing’ with Insurers over Premiums

Just last week, I posted here about employers passing a sharply higher healthcare buck onto employees (scroll down to Sept. 8). The sentiment on the part of employers seemed to be they had no other choice but to raise employee premiums significantly in light of current economic conditions.

Now, it appears, the insurance companies are doing the same thing, raising premiums by nearly 20 percent in September, according to a story Friday in the Wall Street Journal. Only this time, they’ve taken the blame game a step further — to the steps of the White House and the Obama Administration’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, i.e., the healthcare-reform law.

This posting today on mentions not only how some insurance companies are blaming their increases on the mandates of the health-reform law, but how unhappy the president and his secretary of health and human services are about this finger-pointing.

In a counterpunch — or counterattack if you’re fencing, which this resembles more — the White House has announced that insurance companies enacting “unjustified” rate hikes linked to the healthcare-reform law will not be able to participate in the new state-run insurance exchanges that millions of people are expected to use to buy coverage beginning in 2014. Ouch!

Kathleen Sebelius, HHS secretary, confims in the HRMorning post that some insurance companies have started notifying enrollees their premiums will be going up as a result of the PPACA — “an action that will not be tolerated,” according to the post.

I realize there’s not a whole lot you can do with this, but you might as well be armed with all the latest fits, starts, blows and counter-blows as you head into open enrollment.